The Clark County Education Association no longer trusts Gov. Steve Sisolak to deliver on his education promises. That’s just one of the interesting takeaways from the two tax hike initiatives that the union proposed this week.
On Monday, the union filed an initiative to increase the gaming tax from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent on gross monthly revenue over $250,000. It’s estimated this would raise more than $300 million a year.
On Wednesday, the union filed a second initiative, a 1.5 percentage point sales tax increase. If successful, the Clark County sales tax would jump to 9.875 percent. That would be one of the highest rates in the country. The union estimates this would suck more than $1 billion a year out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Union boss John Vellardita described the two proposals as the “final fix” for Nevada’s education funding system. That’s hilarious. Easiest prediction in the world: If both initiatives pass, the education establishment will be back within a few years asking for more money.
Just five years ago, then-Gov. Brian Sandoval pushed through a $1.5 billion tax hike specifically to increase education spending. And yet, here’s the union crying poverty.
Leave aside the decades of evidence that increasing education spending won’t increase student achievement. The political dynamics are fascinating.
In January 2018, the CCEA heartily endorsed Sisolak over fellow Democrat Chris Giunchigliani, even though she once served as its president. The union praised Sisolak’s “fierce commitment to resolve public education issues.” In turn, Sisolak said he’d give teachers a raise, reduce overcrowding and make schools a priority.
What a difference two years makes. Sisolak’s initial budget didn’t provide enough funding to pay for the 3 percent raises he promised teachers. He didn’t address overcrowding. The CCEA almost went on strike.
The union isn’t just going around Sisolak. It’s telling voters that Sisolak didn’t — and won’t — deliver for education. This puts Sisolak in a tight spot.
“You can’t say you’re for schools if you’re against funding them,” Sisolak said in a 2018 TV ad.
It’s hard to imagine a 10 percent sales tax being popular. Either Sisolak endorses an unpopular tax or he — by his own words — isn’t for schools. Talk about being hoisted by your own petard. Casinos, some of Sisolak’s biggest donors, won’t like the gaming tax hike.
So far, Sisolak’s preferred approaching is hiding. His office didn’t respond to a call and email for comment.
If the initiatives qualify, his problems will linger. In Nevada, initiatives go first to the Legislature. If the lawmakers don’t pass these tax proposals, they’ll go to the ballot in 2022 — when Sisolak is up for re-election. With $2.3 million in the bank and Trump’s strong economy boosting him, Sisolak is a heavy favorite. This curveball is what Republicans need to boost their chances.
The union is pushing a liberal idea — that Nevada needs to throw money into a broken education system — but its overreach may end up helping conservative candidates.